Goal setting, multidimensional anxiety and performance
The primary purpose of the experiments carried out within this thesis was to examine the relationships between goals, the perceptions of individuals towards those goals, the performance environment and the eventual performance outcome. More specifically, what are the changes in selected goal setting variables and what is the anxiety response within individuals, when objective goal difficulty is manipulated under various environmental conditions? Four laboratory-based experiments were carried out in this research. The primary purpose of the first experiment was to establish an appropriate experimental design and measure of task performance that would allow an investigation of selected goal setting variables. Whilst the primary objectives were achieved, one important factor emerged that needed to be considered in the design of the subsequent experiments. Goal setting needed to be based around the ability of the individual rather than group norms. Experiment 2 was designed not only to further investigate the theoretical framework underlying goal setting, but also to examine the nature of the multidimensional anxiety response associated with that framework. Again, the main objectives of Experiment 2 were achieved, but the experimental design adopted did not allow for investigation of changes in goal setting and anxiety under different performance environments. Consequently, Experiment 3 was designed in an attempt to extend the investigation of the above framework towards 'real-life' situations. A complex design attempted to approximate the environmental conditions encountered by athletes in low versus high stress situations, such as those encountered in practice and in competition. The results were complex and the major finding to emerge was that it was difficult to approximate 'real-life' situations when using a novel performance task and competitive instructions as a potential stressor. Experiment 4 attempted to address these issues and required university basketball players to perform a basketball free-throw task under 'low stress' and 'high stress'conditions. Although there were expected differences for the goal setting and anxiety variables between different goal groups, there were no differences on any of the variables when performing under the different environmental conditions. The series of experiments contained within this thesis attempted to establish a theoretical framework, albeit in a laboratory setting, which may form the basis for future, more ecologically valid, investigations into the many 'real-life' sporting situations which inherently contain aspects relating to goal setting, anxiety and performance .